To Annie: this is how you spent the day you turned 6 years old.
You sleep well and wake up on time, happy it’s your birthday and eager to understand the present-opening schedule. We take care of the basics and head downstairs. You select your first gift: an electric toothbrush with built-in cup and timer, and a unicorn cap. You’re thrilled, having reminded me just yesterday that you wanted an electric toothbrush for your birthday.
We measure your height against the wall, and you and Paul nibble on breakfast and use your new appliances as tools for all sorts of experiments. At 8, I have a specific gift for you to open: analog wrist watches! Even MORE thrilling! Yours comes with a map of specific places and times at which we have scheduled suprises for the morning. (“I know what surprises mean: you can’t tell me.”) The first is coming up, and at 8:15 you charge into the front yard to find your dear cousins piling out of their car with breakfast tacos for all.
You spend a joyful 45 minutes playing and showing off your new items and receiving a hand-me-down teddy bear in roller skates from Lyla, who’s excited to bestow it. At 9, we say goodbye and load up for our next stop. Wildflowers? A pond with fishes? Must be the wildflower center! Or, as you recall it, the place you had your 4-year-old birthday party.
It’s a hopping scene, but we check right in with our reservations and our masks, and meet friends Sage and Silas at the fish pond. You all set off at a run, checking off items on the scavenger hunt and acquiescing to photo ops on the way. We haven’t been here in a year and a half, and the ghosts of younger you and Paul haunt our trip, toddling tediously through terrain you race through now.
At 11, we’re loading up again. You’re enthusiastically dismantling the sea monkey kit our friends gifted you, and we’re headed to the turtle pond by the UT Tower for our next surprise. “I think we’re meeting more friends,” you guess, “because all the other surprises have been people.” Well-reasoned, my child. We reach the turtle pond and spot another mother-daughter pair on a blanket. It’s June. Your best friend and love of your life ages 2-4, who you have not seen in nearly a year or played with since school was abruptly cancelled last March.
It takes 20 minutes for you to warm up, both clinging to our laps and whispering in our ears about how the other has changed, and how the other must be feeling shy, and whether it might be okay to give her a gift. Finally, she begins hunting acorns, and you volunteer to help. Soon enough, you’re skipping through the grass, running back to me only to confide, “June’s not actually feeling too shy.” Her mother and I enjoy catching up and get a little misty watching you.
We head home. Paul and Dad have had their own special time, and the two of you take turns at video games for a bit. Gobka and Gamma call, and you show off your presents. A teacher at school has gifted you your first eye shadow and two kinds of lip gloss. “Median, I have never had such beautiful things! Thank you!” you call to the sky.
You do some playing and take Sous for a short walk (your idea). You and Paul start bickering, so we decide it’s movie time, and that you’re ready for the first Harry Potter. You are into it. We watch half, eat dinner, and you start playing again, happily this time, scrubbing the banisters with your new toothbrushes. Sure.
We head upstairs at 7, and you turn those toothbrushes to their intended use. The timer on the set has you brushing for 10x as long as normal, and you enjoy it so much you do it twice, suds running down your chin. You arrange all your new toys and cosmetics on your bed and paint your whole face and the soles of your feet with lip gloss while I read a chapter of Beezus and Ramona. I say goodnight, and Dad runs interference until you’re asleep. SIX. You’re SIX now.